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Do I Need an Audio Engineering Degree?

A common question asked by aspiring recording engineers and music producer is, “Do I need an audio engineering degree to get a job in the music industry?”

The short answer is, no, you don’t. Most people in this business really don’t care whether you have a degree, or a diploma, or a certificate, or whatever—and they certainly don’t care where (or if) you went to school. In the music industry, the bottom line is that you know how to do your job well. This goes for studio owners as well as clients. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll get the gigs; if not, you won’t. Any degree in audio engineering (or lack of a degree) is pretty much irrelevant.

That being said, while the degree itself may be unimportant, the education behind any degree or diploma is very important.  You’re not just going to waltz into a recording studio and get yourself a job as an engineer if you have no skills or experience.  You can spend a lot of money learning those skills in a college or trade school, or you can spend less money and learn it on-the-job through a Recording Connection externship—but you need to learn the skills somehow, regardless.

So the question you need to ask yourself is not whether you need an audio engineering degree (because technically, you don’t), but rather, how you’re going to learn the skills and gain the work experience that will make you an asset in the recording studio. Colleges and trade schools can teach some of the skills, but the experience usually only comes through working in the studio.  That’s what makes externship such an effective way to learn.

When you learn one-on-one from a working producer/engineer, you are able to experience what working with the gear feels like, what working in the studio feels like, and what working with clients looks like. It’s difficult to learn these things in a classroom environment, which is exactly why music industry pros don’t pay much attention to degrees and diplomas. To them, all that piece of paper says is that you went to school somewhere—it doesn’t tell them anything whatsoever about your skills. However, if you’ve spent time working in a real studio alongside a professional, allowing yourself to be trained and externd, you are gaining both skills and experience at the same time—plus, as you learn and grow, and as your mentor becomes aware of your skills, it increases your chances of being hired, or being recommended for jobs and gigs. All of this happens naturally and organically within the studio, whether you happen to have a degree or not.

So the bottom line is, if you want a career as an audio engineer or music producer, your priority is to get in the door of a recording studio and gain the skills and experience you need in order to be taken seriously. An externship is a great way to do this. Real, on-the-job experience will open more doors for you than an audio engineering degree ever could.

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